What is Interoception?

What is Interoception?

This is our internal senses.  Any sensations that originate from within the body, like the feeling of hunger and thirst, sickness, sleep, heart rate, the feeling that one needs to use the bathroom, and managing your emotions proactively all stem from the sense of interoception.

“The interoceptive sense relates to the sensory nerve cells innervating the viscera (thoracic, abdominal, pelvic organs, and cardiovascular system), their sensory end organs, or the information they convey to the spinal cord and the brain.   

Some individuals are under-responsive to interoceptive input.  Those who are under-responsive may not respond appropriately or quickly enough to interoceptive stimuli.   A child who does not know when he has to use the bathroom or a child who does not drink enough because he does not feel thirst are two examples of how this under-responsivity manifests.

The interoceptive system is tricky because we don’t have direct access to it. However, there does seem to be a connection between vestibular input (movement) and the interoceptive system.

Therefore for under-responders, using alerting forms of movement and input such as multi-directional swinging or bouncing on a large ball prior to food or drink times or to increase an awareness of the need to use the restroom. Following a visual schedule when working on a toilet-training for a child who is under-responsive to interoceptive input is helpful.

Some individuals may be over-responsive to input from the interoceptive sense.  A child may be greatly distracted by slight changes in body temperature or may struggle with feeling or hearing their heart beating.  These children may experience a constant sense of anxiety. In the same way that the nervous system may have difficulty screening out background sensation such as noise, incidental tactile stimulation (i.e. tags and seams), smells, the internal sense become so distracting that a person can focus on little else. Calming movement activities can be helpful such as slow and rhythmic rocking or swinging, or prone over a ball to rock gently back and forth between hands and feet.

 

Here are 5 activities that can help your child become more aware of their inner self

 

 

Breathing
Taking 5 deep breathes help a child (and an adult) notice their heart beat and the difference between excited and calm

 

Activities
Movement activities can help a child become more aware and organized to understand their inner self. 

Fast and irregular movements are ALERTING

Slow and rhythmic movements are CALMING

 

Meals and Snacks
Having a child participate in movement before eating can help them be more alert and potentially eat and drink more. 

Crunchy foods are ALERTING (pretzels, chips, veggies)

Chewy foods are CALMING (fruit leather, bagels, gum)

 

Regulation
Using a reminder system, like this watch minder, can be helpful for kids toilet training or becoming more consistent in taking breaks and working on self regulation. 

 

Tapping and Music
Using your body to tap or clap can help set a rhythm for success! Check out EFT.  Listening to music promotes so many different skills. When it comes to our internal sense, it can help to regulate our heartbeat and improve our overall optimal level of function!